There aren’t a lot of books that cover how to be a good Team Leader at Target or a Product Line Manager in a manufacturing company.
Yet, that is precisely what companies need to address. Front line managers are the most visible and influential level of every business. They influence the culture and productivity of employees, put out businesses crises, and form a bridge between upper management and employees.
Surprisingly, few books cover their role in practical terms. Even few address the realities of front-line management such as co-worker relations, communication, and mentoring on a practical level.
Development Advice for the Front-Line: Be a Good Role Model
“Nurture: The Team Development Manual for First-Time Line Managers” by John James Newton (@johnjnewton) provides a brief overview of the practical issues that line managers (particularly new managers) will face in their role.
Newton draws on his nearly 20 years of experience in management and development to focus on the “soft” issues that are often reserved for upper level management, such as communication, boundaries, and feedback.
In “Nurture” Newton provides uncomplicated advice in a very straightforward manner without extras. As an example, the author doesn’t just advise front line managers to communicate regularly with employees. He details how often and why in a few sentences.
Newton’s advice to managers follows along with most modern advice for managers of all levels. He advises managers to be facilitators (as opposed to micromanagers). Newton places a greater emphasis on the manager as the “do as I do” role model compared to “do as I say” role model.
As a manager, he argues, it is your job to not only facilitate efficiency, managers should demonstrate it consistently in their words and actions.
That being said, Newton doesn’t encourage managers to be doormats. Bad habits and rumors are two of the negative habits that the author says need to stamped out quickly. The best way to deal with both rumors and bad habits is proactive communication.
Bad habits result from two things, training or the culture, both of which can be addressed. Errors in training can lead to improper or unsafe work practices, lawsuits, and more. Because front-line managers are so close to their employees, they are in a unique position to impact their employees. Front-level managers should use that influence to help front-line employees reach their highest potential.
More Development Advice for the Front-Line Manager: Don’t Be Afraid of Talent
Where Newton differs is on some particulars of front-line management. Instead of admonishing managers to meet regularly with their employees, Newton provides a specific answer, meet them every day.
Two practices that “Nurture” is particularly focused on calling front-line managers out on two negative practices, both involving talent development.
The first is trying to hold on to good talent even when it hurts morale and the second is taking available talent for granted. Both of these practices stem from fear of a loss.
In one case, a business burns all their resources to retain one “star employee”, leaves a gap in the talent pipeline that will sustain the business. Similarly, not developing anyone because of turnover, robs Focusing all of a businesses’ resources on a “star employee” while failing to develop others is a serious oversight of potential talent.
Train your employees to be the best, Newton says, and your business will be better, no matter what happens.
Can “Nurture” Help Your Company’s Front Line?
The strongest aspect of “Nurture” is the ability of the author to concisely summarize key aspects of management for managers who don’t often get noticed. Newton provides really useful advice gained from real-life experience. It is powerfully positive and inspirational complete with Dilbert-like cartoons in between the sections of the book.
That being said, the brevity of “Nurture” may also be weakness. Because the book is short and sweet, it skips major details. This book falls very short of the “manual” that it claims to be. That brevity can also be seen in the organization. “Nurture” isn’t based around specific themes, making finding something a little difficult.
If you are looking for a specific issue to address (something you would do with a manual), you would have to guess by the titles. There aren’t too many pages, so it shouldn’t be a hassle to find something, however.
“Nurture” is best suited for the specific audience it targets from the first page, front-line managers. The language, content, and style are best used for first-time front-line managers who may be anxious when dealing with their new role. While the book may not provide everything a front-line manager will need, the book’s inspirational language and can-do spirit will provide a welcome relief.
This review of “Nurture” is based on an electronic copy of the book (available on Amazon here) provided for the purposes of a review.